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An Easter Treasure: Letters from Saint Elizabeth Seton.

It is with great pleasure and humble thanks on this Easter that we make available the small but important Elizabeth Ann Seton collection.  This collection includes letters from  Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton to Matthias and Joseph O’Conway.  Matthias, a prominent Philadelphian, especially within the Catholic community, was the father of Cecilia O’Conway, Philadelphia’s first nun and the first woman to join Seton’s order, the Sisters of Charity.  The correspondence is personal in nature and relates to several members of the O’Conway family.  Members of the Digital Library team are working on formatting transcriptions of the letters for increased readability.

This also marks a first for the Digital Library:  the scanning of materials physically owned and of course created by a Saint.   Indeed actually touching and photographing these sheets of paper involved treating the objects with the highest degree of reverence.  Speaking for only myself, handling the letters as a scanner was a sacred experience.






Photograph taken on Easter 2011



A stellar day for Villanova’s Digital Library

Thursday, January 20th 2011,  was quite a day for the Digital Library: the incorporation of Digital Library data into VuFind – and this is not just the metadata but the full indexing of all OCR’ed content, pdf files from transcriptions and faculty publications.  This of course brings all of the functionality and power of VuFind to the Digital Library content including all of the social features and best of all – high quality searching.  In addition to this, the Google sitemaps to Digital Library content were published so all Digital Library content will again be findable – after a 3 year hiatus – directly from Google.  It also marks the final tweaking of the latest software back-end rewrite from David Lacy – we are back in full operation since a break in November for software deployment and testing.  Transcripts for handwritten materials that have been archived for over 4 years are finally being wedded to the images and of course it is all findable using VuFind.  These software deployments have been eagerly awaited for years!

So a hearty round of Kudos to Dave Lacy, Demian Katz, and Dave Uspal.   They have worked tirelessly to make these enhancements possible and have been excited about the developments too!  They are working hard to bring VuDL to birth and so share this robust toolset with the library and archives communities!  Indeed there are a large number of enhancements and tweaks that will increase the utility of the software that are in development.

Other items on Thursday of interest are: the highly positive news about a possible development / testing partner for VuDL;   a request from another maritime museum about possible partnership;  a request from a Princeton scholar for a Digital Library photograph for a new book on Irish nationalists to be published by Princeton in December 2011,  and of course, an article in the latest ACRL News about our La Salle partnership!

From last week we had some other fantastic news:  two new partnerships – the modest partnership with the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, and dramatically the Philadelphia Ceili Group. We will be digitizing the audio and video of the Ceili Group’s meetings and performances of Irish Musicians from their historic archive – who knows what content and performers we will find on these tapes!  And we will also be working with the Library of Congress to obtain the master tapes for years that Villanova University currently does curate.   Stephen Spatz will be acting as our point person for this project due to his skill and interest in all things musical.

I am so very positive about our future progress and our outstanding staff that works so very well together!


Hello, world!

My name is Laura and I am the new Special & Digital Collections Curatorial Assistant here at Falvey Memorial Library. I’ve just finished my third week and I have enjoyed every day so far.

My Special Collections duties include cataloguing, taking inventory, and assisting researchers. For the Digital Library, I help with scanning, entering metadata, and creating and editing transcriptions of scanned materials.

Besides these day-to-day activities, I also have long-term projects. I am currently planning an exhibit for the fall semester about Irish travel literature, to be displayed in the library as well as online. I am also organizing a project to photograph and catalogue the trees on the Villanova campus, which used to be an arboretum. I love trees and I love photography, so I am very excited about this! Along with the trees, I will also be documenting the outdoor sculptures around campus.

Tree branch by the main entrance to the library.
Tree branch by the main entrance to the library.

I am very happy to be here and I look forward to sharing more interesting things in the future!


Elite Edition: Eyecandy for Visual Gormands

The growth of micro-blogs has been tremendous over the last few years. A recent article in Slate highlights this trend and points out some of the notable blogs in this sub-genre.

The Blue Electrode is joining this trend with the creation of a second “Elite Edition” which will highlight images from new titles and quotes from just transcribed texts. Don’t expect the new edition to have much editorial commentary, for that content continue to read the standard edition.

Blue Electrode: Elite Edition


Reflections on Villanova’s Digital Library

Posted for Teri Ann Pirone:

Most of the blog entries in the Blue Electrode deal with one or two interesting items that have been digitized by our team. Today, however, I would like to reflect more generally on the digital library. The project has achieved tremendous growth since its inception in June 2006. It has seen numerous student workers come and go, as well as interns, and now, some of the professional colleagues who helped lay the foundations for this project are moving on from the library. Sadly I am part of that latter category. However, rather than focusing on what the digital library has lost I would like to spend a moment reflecting on what the digital library has gained.

Over the past two and a half years the digital library has seen the creation of: the software for both the back and front ends, a full fledged redesign of the front end, the inclusion of more than 4,000 items in some 118 collections, and we have branched out to include partner’s contributions. Much like an iceberg though, these are just what can be observed from the outside. Many projects are being worked on behind the scenes, some of which have been alluded to in previous blog entries and others which have not yet been disclosed, but that are equally exciting and will add a richness to the content on the digital library that has not yet been achieved.

One of these projects is the transcription efforts. I have personally had a large hand in developing the standards for this project and training an enthusiastic group of transcribers. With some luck, soon this project, which until now, has only been shared via the blog, should be publicly viewable, at least in part. The transcription project has a long way to go since the time it takes to transcribe and revise handwritten documents is far greater than the time it takes to scan and mount them online. Still, we have made a solid start on this project which I am sure will continue to bear fruit.

There are other gems that will be unveiled in the short term too, so keep an eye out for content from our newest partner and a handsomely designed and well-researched online exhibit for one of the items in the collection. As an outsider, perhaps, and I do hope this is the case, the effect may look effortless, but there have been numerous bumps in the road. Perhaps the most persistent problem we have encountered is running out of storage space. Twice now this has left us with our only option being scanning to external disk drives. If there is a silver lining to this quite frustrating situation, it is that when we do manage to start mounting content again online, as we have started to do again just this week, then we have months worth of scanned materials that are just waiting to be added to their digital collections –resulting in an explosion of new content.

How do you bid adieu to a project that you have seen the birth of and continue to work on from afar? This was the task set before me and I still don’t have any good answers. All I can say is that I am proud to have worked on a project that gives so much to the scholarly community. It enriches our historical record, builds bridges with other local institutions, and has a reach that goes as far as the World Wide Web. I hope in this blog entry I have piqued your interest about what might be coming and have given you a peak behind the scenes to better understand what it is like working on a project like this. I have watched the progress and development of this exciting program and it is with real sadness that I am leaving it, though I am grateful that I can check in and see the development of the project with the ease of opening a browser and pointing it to

Teri Ann Pirone



Last Modified: February 20, 2009

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